Vegetable Sambar recipe | Mixed Vegetable Sambar
Last Updated on July 15, 2023 by Santosh Allada
Sambar, is a South Indian spicy and tangy stew made with lentil/split yellow pigeon peas, vegetables, spices, and herbs. Vegetable Sambar is a delicious combo of dal and vegetables that are filled with nutrients.
Being a South Indian, I have been having sambar since childhood. I guess, by now, sambar runs in my blood too. LoL!
Because of the South Indian restaurants/tiffin centers around the globe, sambar is popular among many. But, if you are new to South Indian cuisine and unaware of sambar.
What is Sambar?
Sambar is a South Indian stew made with lentils/split yellow pigeon peas, vegetables, tamarind, herbs, spices, and a special spice powder called sambar powder.
Rice is a staple food of South Indians. So a side dish made with dal/lentils is a must every day. While there are many varieties made with dal, sambar is one of the frequently made side dishes. There is some magic in sambar, I can have it every day and still not get bored of it.
There are many varieties in sambar, but a basic sambar will contain a mix of one or two different vegetables, lentils/toor dal for its base, and tamarind, a special blend of spices called sambar powder.
This South Indian stew is a common dish served at tiffin centers in Hyderabad along with breakfast items like idli, dosa, vada, uttapam, pesarattu, upma, pongal, and the list goes on.
It is also commonly served with steamed rice, ghee, fried curd chilies, and papad. This is a heavenly combo.
Sambar powder is a key ingredient for an authentic flavor and aromatic sambar. It is a blend of aromatic whole spices. I will share the sambar powder recipe. If you are a bachelor or short of time to make sambar powder at home, you can use store-bought/readymade sambar powder.
But, nothing beats the aroma of sambar powder made at home. You can make the sambar powder and store it for months. With the powder ready, it is very quick to make vegetable sambar anytime.
Reasons to make this Vegetable Sambar:
Healthy and nutritious
Easy to make
Loaded with veggies
Make everyday meals special
Treat your guests to a special meal lunch/dinner.
About this recipe
In the South, every household has a different way of making sambar. Restaurants have a different way too. I have come across two common ways Sambar is made.
1. Lentils are cooked till mushy and then mashed. Later vegetables, mashed dal, tamarind pulp, sambar powder, and other spice powders are mixed together and simmered till the vegetables are cooked. In the end, tempering or tadka is added to sambar.
2. Vegetables are sauteed in the tempering. Later all the other ingredients are added and simmered till aromatic. I will share this recipe with you.
The vegetable sambar recipe I will share is a very unique style of making vegetable sambar usually followed in some of the popular hotels, marriages, functions, and curry points in South India.
Of Course, this style of sambar making with sambar powder is slightly more potent and has a profound special taste which is very suitable for breakfast preparation and rice too.
Just give this recipe a try and I’m sure you will fall in love and frequently make sambar at home.
Ingredients to make Vegetable Sambar
The ingredients we need to make vegetable sambar are easily available at any Indian supermarket/grocery store or online too.
Lentils/Split pigeon peas: There are different types of lentils available. Traditionally, toor dal, also called as arhar dal or tuvar dal is used. At home, you can also mix different dals like moong dal or masoor dal to increase the nutritional value and for additional health benefits.
Vegetables: Sambar is loaded with the goodness of vegetables. For me, the required vegetables are onions, drumsticks, cucumber, bottle gourd, carrot, radish, okra. There are many other vegetables you can add as per your choice.
You can make vegetable sambar with just one vegetable or mix vegetables of your choice to make mixed vegetable sambar.
I prefer to use fresh vegetables. However, you can opt for frozen vegetables too.
Tamarind pulp or paste: It is an important ingredient that adds tanginess to the dish.
Sambar Powder: This special spice mix is made with selected whole spices, lentils, rice grains, and a few other ingredients.
Oil and Ghee: Oil is used to saute the vegetables and ghee is added for aroma and taste.
Jaggery: This adds a mild sweetness to sambar. Also, add nutrients.
Tempering and other ingredients: You need methi/fenugreek seeds, turmeric powder, green chilies, garlic cloves, curry leaves, whole dry red chilies, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida, salt, red chili powder, coriander powder, and coriander leaves.
How to make Sambar powder?
Sambar powder is easy to make at home. It is of the best quality and is economical. The flavorful and aromatic powder can be made within 10-15mins. Make this sambar beforehand and store it for months. In the fridge, this powder keeps good for about 6 months. But, at room temperature, use it within 3 months.
The ingredients I mentioned are for 2-3 people. As the quantity is less, I have roasted all the ingredients together. If you make the powder in a large quantity, I suggest dry roasting each ingredient separately as the cooking time is different.
Ingredients to make sambar powder
The ingredients measurement mentioned is for less quantity of sambar powder. I do not suggest making sambar powder in large quantity and store for months. The taste of the powder will not be the same as days pass by.
- Coriander Seeds – 1tbsp
- Chana Dal – 1tbsp
- Urad Dal – 1tbsp
- Pepper – 2tsp
- Rice – 1/2tbsp
- Cinnamon – 1tsp
- Green Cardamom – 3
- Cumin Seeds – 1tsp
- Methi Seeds – 1tsp
- Mustard Seeds – 1tsp
- Byadgi or Kashmiri Red Chillies – 10-15
- Curry Leaves – 1Sprig
- Turmeric powder – 1/2tsp
- Hing – 1tsp
Take a wide pan/kadai. Add both the dals and roast on low flame for 2-3mins. Next, add dry red chilies and continue to roast till dal change color. Remove it to a plate.
Next, add the rest of the ingredients except turmeric powder and hing. Roast till aromatic and remove it to a plate. Let it cool completely. Take it into a mixie jar and grind it along with dals and dry red chilies.
Now add turmeric powder and hing to the grided powder.
Remove it to a plate and let it cool completely. Take it into a mixie jar and grind it to a fine powder.
Homemade Sambar powder is ready. Store this freshly ground sambar powder in an airtight container only.
Now the special spice powder is ready, let’s see how to make vegetable sambar.
How to make Vegetable Sambar (step-by-step)
Step 1: Cook the dal
1. Wash the toor dal well.
2. In a pressure cooker, add the strained dal along with turmeric powder, oil/ghee, and water.
3. Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles or till done.
4. Once the dal is cooked, mash it with a wired whisk or the back of the spoon and keep it aside.
Step 2: Make the Vegetable Sambar
5 & 6. Soak tamarind in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze well and strain the liquid.
7. In a pot or kadai, heat oil over medium flame. When hot, add crushed garlic.
8. Next, add fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Let them crackle. Take care, not to burn seeds.
9 & 10. Add dried red chilies and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until leaves turn crisp. Next, add hing/asafoetida and give a good mix.
11. Add onions and all the vegetables of your choice. On medium-high heat, saute for a minute.
12. Next, add chopped tomatoes and saute for 1-2 minutes or until they turn soft.
13 & 14. Turn the flame to low and add red chili powder, sambar masala, and salt. Saute for 30 seconds.
15 & 16. Add the squeezed tamarind water and 1 cup of water. Give a good mix, turn the flame to high and let the water come to a boil.
17 & 18. Add boiled dal and mix well. Turn the flame to low and simmer for good 10-20 minutes or until the veggies are cooked but not mushy. Add extra water, if needed depending on the consistency you prefer.
19 & 20. When it’s almost done, add coriander powder and a few curry leaves. This will add extra flavor to the sambar. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
21 & 22. Add a small piece of jaggery and pure ghee. Give a good mix.
23. Lastly add a shower of coriander leaves and switch off the heat.
24. South Indian Vegetable Sambar is ready to relish. Serve it hot with steamed rice, or idly or vada with a generous dollop of ghee.
Cooking the Dal: Add little oil while pressure cooking the dal. It helps the dal to cook faster. Also, it avoids spillage.
If the cooker is small, don’t add excess water to the lentil as it will result in foaming and overflow from the sides.
Cook the dal well and mash till smooth for a better texture of the sambar.
Fresh curry leaves: Always prefer to use fresh curry leaves, they are aromatic and add a nice flavor to the sambar. Never use dry leaves. Adding them to sambar may spoil the taste, so you can skip if fresh is not available.
Taste: For the best sambar taste, it’s important to balance the sourness, sweetness, salt, and spiciness of the dish. Taste and add accordingly.
Consistency: Do not add more water and make the sambar thin. Medium consistency tastes with rice or breakfast items.
Hot steamed rice, a hot bowl of sambar, a downpour of ghee, and fried papad or dried chilies are a soulful combination. In South India, it is accompanied by veg or non-veg fry as a side dish. Here are some sidekicks that pair well with Sambar – beans carrot poriyal, boiled potato fry, egg masala fry, chicken fry, chicken roast, potato fry, cauliflower fry, and fish fry.
At home, I make Sambar for 2 days for 2 reasons.
1. Sambar tastes better the next day. Over time, the flavors mature.
2. No need to cook dal the next day.
You can store the leftover sambar in the fridge for 2-3 days. The consistency of the sambar will thicken.
Before serving, reheat it in a pan on the stovetop or in a microwave. Add water and adjust consistency.
More South Indian recipes
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For the Tamarind pulp
- lemon size Tamarind (you can increase or decrease it as per your taste)
- 1/4 cup Hot water
For the Dal
- 1/2 cup yellow pigeon peas lentils (toor dal)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp oil or ghee
- 2 cups water
For the Vegetables
- 1 medium Onion (cut in 4)
- 2 medium Tomatoes (roughly chopped)
- 1/4 cup Carrot (sliced or roughly chopped)
- 1-2 Drumsticks (cut in 2-3 inch pieces)
- 1/4 cup Bottle gourd/Lauki (peel the skin and cut into cubes.)
- 2-4 Okra/Bhendi (cut both the ends and cut into 1-2 inch pieces. )
- 1/2 Cucumber/ Dosakaya (peel the skin and cut into cubes.)
- 1 medium Radish (peel the skin and cut into thick slices)
- 2 tbsp Oil
- 1/4 tspn Fenugreek seeds
- 2-4 Garlic cloves (crushed)
- 1 tspn Mustard seeds
- 1 tspn Cumin seeds
- 2-3 Dried red chilies
- 10-12 Curry leaves
- 1/4 tspn Hing (Asafoetida)
- 1 tbspn Ghee
- 2 tbsp Sambar powder
- 1 tsp Red chilly powder
- 1/2 tbsp Coriander powder
- Salt to taste
- Coriander leaves
For cooking the dal
- Wash the dal well. Add it to a pressure cooker, along with water, turmeric powder, and oil. Close the lid.
- Pressure cook for 2-3 whistles or until done. Turn off the heat and let the steam release naturally.
- Mash with a masher or wire whisk or back of a laddle till smooth. If it's thick, add water and mix. Keep it aside.
To make Vegetable Sambar
- Soak tamarind in hot water for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze well and strain the liquid.
- In a pot or kadai, heat oil over medium flame. When hot, add crushed garlic.
- Next, add fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. Let them crackle. Take care, not to burn seeds.
- Add dried red chilies and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds until leaves turn crisp. Next, add hing/asafoetida and give a good mix.
- Add onions and all the vegetables of your choice. On medium-high heat, saute for a minute.
- Next, add chopped tomatoes and saute for 1-2 minutes or until they turn soft.
- Turn the flame to low and add red chili powder, sambar masala, and salt. Saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the squeezed tamarind water and 1 cup of water. Give a good mix, turn the flame to high and let the water come to a boil.
- Add boiled dal and mix well. Turn the flame to low and simmer for good 10-20 minutes or until the veggies are cooked but not mushy. Add extra water, if needed depending on the consistency you prefer.
- When it’s almost done, add coriander powder and a few curry leaves. This will add extra flavor to the sambar. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add a small piece of jaggery and pure ghee. Give a good mix.
- Lastly add a shower of coriander leaves and switch off the heat.
- South Indian Vegetable Sambar is ready to relish. Serve it hot with steamed rice, or idly or vada with a generous dollop of ghee.
What is Sambar powder?
It is a unique blend of selected aromatic spices and lentils such as coriander seeds, dry red chilies, fenugreek seeds, chana dal, udad dal, raw rice grains, curry leaves, cinnamon, hing, black pepper.
All these ingredients are dry roasted on low flame and ground to a fine powder.
How long can we store sambar?
Sambar can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. Due to refrigeration, the consistency thickens. Reheating on a gas top may tend to burn from the bottom. Add hot water while reheating.
Which vegetables can be added to sambar?
Sambar is the best way to clear off vegetables in the fridge. The list of vegetables are
Bottle gourd (Lauki)
Brinjal (Egg plant)
Ivy gourd (Tendli)
How to fix my sambar?
It happens that sambar turns out too tangy. In such cases, add more cooked dal and water.
If it’s too spicy, add more tamarind pulp and simmer again.
If it’s salty, add potato cubes. It will absorb the salt.
Which sambar powder brand is best?
Most of the brands available in the market are good. The brands I prefer are 3 Mangoes, MTR, Everest, and Aashirvaad.
Is Sambar healthy?
Basic sambar has dal and vegetables which makes the dish protein-rich and loaded with nutrients. Vegetables add fiber and boost immunity.
The combination of lentils and vegetables makes Sambar a perfect balance of protein and nutrients such as fiber, zinc, folic acid, iron, vitamins, and minerals.
What is the difference between sambar and rasam?
The main difference between the two is; Sambar is made with lentils, vegetables, sambar powder and has a thick consistency. Whereas, rasam is made without vegetables and has a watery consistency.
Which tomatoes to select to make Sambar?
For sambar, always use local or desi tomatoes that are round in shape. This variety lends a tangy taste and adds rich red color to the sambar as compared to oval shape hybrid tomatoes.
What is the difference between Sambar and Pappu Charu?
Pappu charu is a simple lentil stew from Andhra cuisine. The process is similar to sambar but is made without sambar powder and vegetables.
What can I use instead of sambar powder?
An alternative for sambar powder is rasam powder. Most of the ingredients used to make both the spice powders are almost the same.
Can I make Sambar without vegetables?
Yes. Use onion, tomatoes and skip the rest of the veggies.